Published May 27, 2005

When the ever-hectic young travel writer Anna Sussman, of the New York Times and various extremely glossy magazines, stopped by the Grapevine to get a Reykjavík perspective we made a deal: we told her about Kaffibarinn and Pylsa, and she agreed to give us the scoop on the New York scene.
The Bad: Hummers
In a diverse and confused city like New York, it’s hard to pin the blame on one particular culprit. I can’t tell if it was P. Diddy who popularized this fad, or they’re being given out as souvenirs from Iraq for the soldiers finally finished with their extended, and then re-extended tours of duty, or if it has to do with President Bush and the massive tax cut he put into place on vehicles weighing over 6,000 pounds, but the Hummer has taken over New York City. Actually, wait, I think it’s the last one. Which makes the Hummer not just the douchebag car, but the greedy douchebag car.
The Good: Extreme Textiles at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum
On the poster, it looks like a diamond-and-sapphire Van Cleef and Arpels brooch. You could pin it on your lapel if you wanted to, but in fact it’s a polyester bioimplantable device for reconstructive shoulder surgery, meant for use inside the body. Like many of the objects on display at Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, the embroidery of the blue-and-white 8-pointed star is an aesthetic achievement in its own right. It’s easy to forget that as its primary function, the embroidery technique performs Herculean tasks, mimicking the multi-directionality of real tissue while allowing the implant to act as a scaffolding for tissue in-growth. Likewise, the warp knitted stainless steel band, which can withstand temperatures of up to 700°, looks more like a futuristic Issey Miyake scarf than a damping and transportation device used in producing car windshields.
That many of the pieces are displayed like design objects on sale at Muji or Conran makes it hard to conceive of how these textiles are impacting our lives. The pretext of the show, that by using innovative materials, ancient textile-making techniques can have groundbreaking applications, is simple. However, making the cognitive leap from, for example, the narrow-weaving of an 11th century Peruvian wool turban band to a twill woven Kevlar fabric designed to prevent an airplane’s fan blade from penetrating the engine case, can prove difficult.
The show begins with historic examples of textiles from the museum’s collection that clearly illustrate, by virtue of accompanying magnified detail photos, the five basic methods of textile construction: weaving, knitting, braiding, netting, and embroidery. It is then organized according to each object’s high-performance characteristic: stronger, lighter, faster, smarter, and safer. The textiles’ applications span a wide range of fields, from architecture to aerospace and transportation, and are brought to life through the videos, touch panels, and interactive pieces stationed throughout.
Of all of the objects in the exhibition, curator Matilda McQuaid cites the medical textiles, and “how beautiful, how functional they were, as well as how significant the textile structure is in the ultimate performance of the object,” as the most surprising elements of the show for her. Indeed, many of the objects, having been developed by NASA or for heavy industry use are so futuristic or high-performance that it’s hard to relate them to your daily life, unless you are an astronaut or a race-car driver. Yet, while most of us will probably never need a space suit glove with embedded robotic controls, it’s easy to see how the embroidered device for reconstructive surgery might one day save our lives. Which is a lot of responsibility for a textile.
Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance is on view at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum through October 30th, 2005.
The Inevitable:
Outdoor Sushi in New York
For all the heinous noise and environmental pollution, dining outside in New York is still pretty fun. It gets especially worthwhile as the weather gets warm, girls start wearing slutty clothes, all the pasty people get tans and the city is all around nicer to look at. One of the best things to eat outdoors is sushi. It’s tepid, its texture is such that the dirt from the New York air which inevitable coats your food isn’t all that noticeable, and it doesn’t make you fat, which is also important this time of year.
That said, there are good and bad places to eat sushi outside. The best is Blue Ribbon Sushi, 119 Sullivan St, between Prince and Spring, 212 343 0404. (Also with a location in Park Slope, Brooklyn.) Although they don’t have outdoor dining on the premises, you can get your order to take away, and eat it in the park a few steps down the street. This way, you skip waiting an hour or more for a table, you’re outside with the bums and drunkards, and you don’t need to tip anyone. Plus, if you need more fresh-grated wasabi, which you probably will, especially if you’ve never tasted the good freshly-grated root before, it’s right down the street. All of the dishes are recommended since the fish is of outstanding quality; but try the California roll with king crab, just to see what a California roll should really taste like.
The worst is The Garden at 18 9th Avenue, between Gansevoort and 13th St, 212 660 6766. I wouldn’t worry too much about winding up here accidentally since apparently the only way to get a reservation is through the publicist since it’s “very, very VIP and exclusive. Very strict door policy,” according to the air-kissing floor manager, Josh. Enforcing this strict door policy is Josh’s stooge, the gum-snapping, pony-tailed Zoolander extra of a doorman, who is backed up by two enormous bodyguards. If for some reason you still want to eat here, maybe because it is outside and has heatlamps and there’s a high wall separating the dining space from the hooligans on the street (oh wait, they have the table next to you) there are a variety of extraordinarily boring sushi rolls, most of them priced to offend at around $15-19 each. Evocative of a Zen garden decorated by Carmen Electra, with candles floating in a reflective pool and backlit by tawdry red recessed neon, this place is a sad reminder of everything that’s wrong with New York today.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!


Show Me More!